In November 2012, we brought you a story about a woman who struggled to maintain her job at a major law firm while simultaneously being a mother to her young children. She ultimately decided to leave the firm, and in her departure memo, she detailed her harrowing schedule — from 4:00 a.m. to 1:30 a.m., from home to her firm and back again, oftentimes covered in a baby’s spit-up — day in and day out.
When Elie Mystal first wrote about this Biglaw mother’s travails, he said, “In a way, this memo is uplifting. You can’t have it all. When you finally come to accept that, it’s liberating. You don’t have to feel like a bad employee or a bad parent for not being able to do it all.”
But what if you could have it all, and be able to do it all? A junior partner at a Biglaw firm, a young mother who once found herself in the fetal position on the floor while she prepared for a class-action trial as an associate, thinks that it’s possible.
Of course she thinks it’s possible — she’s speaking from a position of privilege, and likely has a nanny for each day of the week. Right? Wrong. Take a look as one woman lawyer urges others to keep leaning in….
The partner in question works at Perkins Coie, but she could easily work at any number of firms around the country. She begins her salvo, emailed to the firm’s Parent Affinity Group, with the following tale:
I rode a crowded elevator today with a mid-level associate who quite clearly had not slept more than an hour or two and, judging by the Dora the Explorer sticker on her lapel and constant checking of her phone, she had recently dropped a toddler off at daycare and was now late for a meeting. I’m fairly certain that my attempt at communicating with her via my facial expression resulted in her thinking I was having some sort of seizure. So, to that associate on the elevator – and to any other associate parent in a similar place – here’s what I was trying to convey: hang in there. It gets better; I promise.
Hang in there. This woman may be offering advice taken from an inspirational poster, but she’s probably right. It likely will get better, and perhaps the secret to survival is as simple as waiting until your kids get a little older. “I don’t have any great advice for how to pick yourself up off the floor and gear up for the next round,” she says, but she knows in her heart that Perkins Coie associates will “figure out a way to pick [themselves] up and carry on,” just like she did. All it took was some time, and a lot of patience.
Although this partner doesn’t have specific advice, she offers some great perspective on the issue:
I work from home frequently. I am training for another half-marathon. I usually go to sleep by 11 p.m. I attend parent meetings at my daughter’s school. Last week I rotated my winter and spring clothes in my closet. Yesterday, after filing a motion, I made a pie. If anyone had told me five years ago that they did these things I would have wanted to punch them in the face. Honestly, I would have fantasized about tackling them in the hallway and throttling them while yelling, “A PIE? I HAVEN’T EATEN ANYTHING EXCEPT LEFTOVER CHICKEN FINGERS IN TWO DAYS. I AM WEARING THE SAME PANTS I HAVE WORN FOR THE PAST WEEK AND YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ROTATING YOUR F-ING WARDROBE?” I would have hated me. I’m sure of it. But I say this not to gloat, but to give you hope. One day in the future, you will bake a pie and wear clean pants, if you’re into that kind of thing.
You may hate her now, but in a few years, and with hard work and determination, you could be her.
This partner hopes to save people from the same fate as the overwhelmed Biglaw mother we wrote about in the past. You don’t need to have a nervous breakdown and quit your job because of your children. As naive as it sounds, you can balance your professional responsibilities and your domestic duties.
Associates, you don’t need to go running scared from your career because of your children:
So, to those of you with the Dora sticker on your lapel and the weary look in your eyes, please know that there are many before you who have walked this road and have lived to tell about it. We support you. We will be (and some are) leaders in this firm and we are your champions. We will provide you with advice. We will provide you with cocktails. We will give you the empathetic/confusing face on the elevator. We will tell you when you have a sticker on your lapel. Just hang in there.
Hang in there. You can do it — but if you can’t, be sure to send ATL your departure memo.
(Flip through the following pages to see this Biglaw partner’s full email to associates.)